The Belarusian Tennis Federation is seeking legal advice over Wimbledon’s ban on players from the country while the WTA is threatening “strong reactions” over the decision.
The backlash against the controversial decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, which was announced by the All England Club (AELTC) and Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) on Wednesday, gathered pace on Thursday.
Russian star Andrey Rublev said there was no logic to the decision while all-time great Billie Jean King said there was no way she could support the ban, which has also been condemned by the men’s and women’s tours.
The Belarus Tennis Federation said in a statement it categorically condemned the decision, adding: “Such destructive actions in no way contribute to the resolution of conflicts, but only incite hatred and intolerance on a national basis.
“Obviously, the reason for such a tough decision was the direct pressure of the British Government.
“For example, the statements of the Minister of Sports Nigel Huddleston about the need to allow Belarusian and Russian tennis players to participate in the tournament only after signing a special declaration condemning the special operation and providing guarantees that the athletes do not support the current power in their countries and do not receive public funding.
“Such statements speak of the incompetence and ignorance of the UK officials of the state system of sports support in Belarus and Russia.
“The BTF is taking all possible steps to level the current situation and assures that it will continue to defend the rights of Belarusian tennis players to participate in international tournaments.”
The decision will affect three top-10 singles players – Russians Daniil Medvedev and Rublev on the men’s side, and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka on the women’s.
Speaking after beating Jiri Lehecka at the Serbian Open, Rublev told reporters: “There is no meaning, not even logic what they proposed.”
It had previously been suggested Russian and Belarusian players could be allowed to play if they denounced the invasion of Ukraine, and Rublev added: “I understand if they ban us and at least it would make half a per cent of change but it’s not going to do anything.
“I was trying to explain that maybe if we want really to help – because the thing that happens now is completely discrimination of us, and this is not I think what the England government is proposing.
“If there’s a statement that we need to sign, and on top of that to give all the prize money to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering, I think that move at least will do something.”
Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova have both condemned Wimbledon’s stance while King wrote on Twitter: “One of the guiding principles of the founding of the WTA was that any girl in the world, if she was good enough, would have a place to compete.
“I stood by that in 1973 and I stand by that today. I cannot support the banning of individual athletes from any tournament simply because of their nationality.”